Building Resiliency Through Community Collaborations

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In a time when police agencies across the country are in the spotlight, there is a long-standing community collaboration in Broome County being recognized for its commitment to mental health education and training.

Starting in 2016, this community collaborative, including the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST), Broome County Emergency Services, the Binghamton Police Department and Care Compass Network (CCN), began to proactively address the need to strengthen mental health education for law enforcement and other emergency service professionals in response to an increase in 911 calls for service related to emotional crises.  Since that time, many innovative community initiatives have been launched, including the Broome County 911 Diversion Program, Crisis Intervention Training, and Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety.

Of most recent note, the collaborative provided support to the Binghamton Police Department in it’s continued effort to better serve the community, as it completed the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) One Mind Campaign, which is a pledge to improve response for individuals struggling with mental illness or emotional crisis in the community. This is a voluntary pledge for law enforcement agencies, and successful achievement includes the completion of four promising practices – all of which are designed to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons living with mental illness and/or emotional crisis. To date 496 agencies have taken the pledge across the United States, including 21 in New York State. The Binghamton Police Department is only the 4th agency in NY to complete pledge requirements.

Of the four promising practices required to complete the pledge, at least two have been directly impacted by funding provided by Care Compass Network’s project 3.a.ii, which includes: 1. The requirement to demonstrate that 100% of the sworn officers in the department are trained/certified in the 8-hour Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum and, 2. The requirement that 20% of sworn officers are trained/certified in the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) curriculum. In 2018-19, Care Compass Network provided funds (and sometimes training staff) to certify 41 sworn officers in CIT and 78 sworn officers in MHFA for Public Safety.  In addition to these items, and related to the other promising practices, the collaborative is also credited for its collective work in the design and execution of the 911 Diversion Program, the mobile crisis program, and the crisis respite program. The Broome County 911 Diversion Program, launched in January of 2018, was designed to divert low risk, non-emergency calls related to individuals in emotional crisis directly to a trained mental health counselor at United Health Services. Through this program, over 50 dispatchers were trained in a risk assessment decision tree protocol that helped them to identify whether an emergency police response was necessary, or, if they would be better served by speaking to a trained mental health professional.  

Future Collaborations
The BPD and Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) are currently entering a pilot program with MHAST in which police officers will directly refer individuals who may be experiencing a low acuity emotional crisis to MHAST’s peer run crisis respite house (Our House). The objective of the pilot program is to connect individuals to a service that better meets their needs than the offerings of an emergency room or the criminal justice system.